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Look for the smokin rooster at today's festival
Todays chicken events will feature a huge cook-off
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Doug Shehan loads the rooster smoker he will debut at today’s Spring Chicken Festival onto a trailer. - photo by Tom Reed

Spring Chicken Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today

Where: Roosevelt Square off the downtown Gainesville square

How much: $8 adults, $5 children younger than 10

More info: www.keephallbeautiful.org

The multicolored monument in the Shehans’ front yard is more than a dedication to our area’s poultry pride.

Yes, the hand-painted, 7-foot rooster is majestic. But it’s more than just a pretty face; this bird is smokin’.

Literally — Doug Shehan built the bird by hand, and inside its belly is a smoker suitable for Boston butt or, in the case of today’s Spring Chicken Festival, chicken thighs.

“That’s exactly why I built that rooster,” he said. “This will be my third year in the cook-off, and I wanted to do something. But the problem is, I got a little carried away, and to make it look right, it ended up being about 7 feet tall.”

Today’s Spring Chicken Festival, which is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Roosevelt Square in downtown Gainesville, will pit barbecue bosses against one another in the annual cook-off event. It will also be the debut of Shehan’s rooster.

The rooster is the second themed meat cooker Shehan created.

He built a Georgia bulldog a few years ago, teaching himself how to use his welder in the process. He’s taken that painted grill to events and fundraisers, and eventually started going to more barbecue competitions with his team, the Tuff Dawg Grillers. This fall, he hopes his bulldog grill will finally make its debut at a Georgia football tailgate in Athens.

“Every time I get to take it tailgating, I’ve got something I’ve gotta do,” he said of the requests he gets for the bulldog grill.
The idea for his rooster smoker was born more than a year ago.

“I worked 30 hours a week ... a couple hours after I got home at night and then about 10 to 12 hours on the weekends,” he said.

Using a model rooster as his guide, Shehan created a 3-D metal outline for the bird. The decorative cover for the smoker grew larger and larger, and despite the urging of his wife, Lois, to make parts of it detachable, he soon had one large rooster surrounding his hand-built smoker.

He covered it in a layer of black heat-resistant paint and then Lois added her own special touches: The colors for its feathers.

“I only paint walls in my house ... I’ve never done anything like that before,” she said, noting that she used a painted rooster as her guide. She mixed red, fluorescent yellow, dark blue and black Rust-Oleum to get subtle color variations.

Lois said she also pitched in with the rooster project by cutting pieces of sheet metal for her husband before spending two 12-hour days painting the rooster.

Now that it’s finished, the couple have the smoker perched in their front yard. Which means the oversized bird attracts a lot of rubbernecking.

“It’s wild to watch the people go by,” Lois said. One car stopped alongside the road, she recalled, and Doug, who was smoking some meat for a neighbor, had to call to the driver to just pull in their driveway rather than risk an accident.

“We had like eight women pull in the driveway, and it was like a henhouse here,” she said. “They were out snapping pictures.”

Today, Doug said he will be cooking up chicken thighs and wings, using both his custom smoker and custom grill. He said he’s happy with this creations. But is his grill collection complete?

Well, he could be building cars instead, he noted.

“I’ve already told him, no more grill building,” Lois said. “But whatever.”

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